Kate Niederehe has hiked over 2,155 miles since beginning the Pacific Crest Trail at the California/Mexican border on May 8. On Friday, Sept. 20, the 31-year-old Moab resident and periodic Canyonlands Field Institute (CFI) staff worker crossed from Oregon into Washington.
She is hiking with a purpose: to encourage youth to connect with nature.
Niederehe’s project is called “Hiking To Get Kids Outside.”
She hopes to build awareness for the need to keep children and youth exploring and experiencing the natural world. Additionally, Niederehe is asking for donations that will be split evenly between two non-profits dedicated to helping children directly experience nature.
One hundred percent of donations will be split between Moab’s CFI and City Kids Wilderness Project, based in Washington, D.C. Niederehe has worked for both of these groups in the past.
Niederehe is an outdoor education specialist. Her experiences have proven that connecting children and youth with nature helps them to stay active, inspires curiosity, and, ultimately, helps them to feel empowered and to gain perspective.
“Encounters in the natural world can foster personal growth and joy in life. I have seen it happen,” she said. “Our society is changing. I fear a growing disconnect between young people and the natural world.”
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study concludes that children age eight to 18 spend over 52 hours per week using electronic devices. Children are now watching nature programs on television rather than experiencing it themselves.
Niederehe feels that her Pacific Crest Trail hike has already changed her life through both beautiful and harrowing experiences.
She recalled a difficult, 4,500-foot climb six miles out of Seiad Valley in California. To avoid the heat of the day, she began the climb at five o’clock in the evening. She hiked six miles to the first water source. As she rounded a bend on the trail, she witnessed a spectacular sunset. The sky was filled with fluffy white clouds, tinged with oranges and pinks. The sun peaked through the clouds, resting just above the horizon.
The Pacific Crest Trail begins in southern California at the Mexican border and ends at the border between Washington and Canada. This 2,650-mile trail is one of the original National Scenic Trails, established in 1968.
She chose the Pacific Crest Trail because of the expansive views and numerous ecosystems that it offers. Niederehe hopes to reach the end of the trail by mid-October at the U.S.—Canadian border, north of Seattle and near the Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia.
She hikes an average of 25 miles each day. Her longest hike in one day was 36 miles. Once her hike is completed, Niederehe will be in a unique class. The Pacific Crest Trail Association reports that only 600-800 thru-hikers begin the trail each season with approximately 60 percent succeeding in their quest.